It’s not everyday I find dinner in the yard. But this day, my asparagus plant surprised me with stalks that seemed to appear overnight.
I was ready for a spring meal and asparagus is a spring vegetable. Find it now at the grocery store. Look for firm, straight stalks with tightly closed tips. Dry, yellowing, or tips that are separated indicate the asparagus is older. Thickness doesn’t matter as much as freshness. Plan to eat it within a day or two of purchase. Store in the refrigerator. Asparagus grows in sandy soil, so when I’m ready to cook, I soak mine for a few minutes in water to help rinse the grit.
Asparagus is a quick cook veg. Steam for just 4 to 5 minutes, until the spears bend slightly when you hold them in the middle. Or add them near the end of cooking like in the recipe below where I paired asparagus with mushrooms.
When shopping for mushrooms, look for those that are firm and fresh. Soft spots, wet, or shriveling are signs of age. If the underside gills of white or button mushrooms are showing, the mushrooms are old. S’rooms don’t keep long. At home, store in the fridge and plan to use within a week.
This recipe is quick and easy. While the pasta water heats, get the vegetables cooking. The sauce is cheese and some of the pasta water. The water has starch from the pasta, so helps thicken the sauce. I’ve used goat cheese, but ricotta, or blue cheese can be substituted. Walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts can be used in place of pine nuts.
Asparagus was easy to use, now I have to figure out what to do with all the dandelions.
Asparagus Mushroom Pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound asparagus
10-12 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced, (about 3 cups)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ cup goat cheese
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
½ pound pasta, farfalle, penne or linguini
reserved pasta water
Begin heating pasta water. While pasta water heats, prepare asparagus and mushrooms. Cook pasta until it’s slightly undercooked, 1-2 minutes before package directions. Drain pasta into colander, reserving 1/4 to ½ cup pasta water.
As pasta water heats, break off the tough, woody end of the asparagus spear at its natural breaking point, about 2 inches from the bottom. Place asparagus in loaf pan or pie plate and fill with water, let soak 5-10 minutes, to remove dirt. Remove from water, cut into 1-inch pieces.
Wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove bits of dirt or give them a quick rinse in running water, but pat dry before cooking. Mushrooms absorb water, which means if they soak in water, they become mushy. Slice mushrooms evenly so they cook evenly, ¼-inch slices are good.
Heat large skillet over medium heat, add oil, heat oil for 1-2 minutes, add mushrooms, thyme, and crushed red pepper. Cook 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add asparagus and cook 2 minutes, stir a couple of times. Add goat cheese and ¼ cup (or a bit if it looks a bit dry) reserved pasta water. Cook and stir until water and cheese combine and coat pasta.
Serve pasta then sprinkle pine nuts and parsley over top. Squeeze lemon juice over all.
Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author.